Part 3 of the 3 part series: The Lost Sheep
The Lost Sheep is part of the two-week study "The Lost Series"
We easily identify the shepherd as a Christ figure in the parable of the lost sheep, and it's not just because Jesus is telling the story. He refers to himself as the Good Shepherd in John 10:14-16, and we find similar imagery throughout the entire Bible. It's also easy to picture him as the shepherd because we often find ourselves lost and need to find our way back to God. However, as we reflect further on this parable, it can also be fruitful to place ourselves in the role of the shepherd.
Jesus receiving and eating with sinners as well as the shepherd going after the lost sheep are great examples of how we are called to live as Christians. In Scripture we repeatedly read stories of Jesus doing the unexpected -- going against the rules by living out the spirit of the law instead of ritualistically adhering to the letter of the law. He stays in the home of Zacchaeus, a rich tax collector (Lk 19:1-10); he speaks with a Samaritan woman at the well whom is outcast even in her own society (Jn 4); he eats with Matthew and other tax collectors (Mt 9:9-13). All these instances cause the Jewish people -- sometimes even his own disciples -- to "murmur" and comment on his unexpected, shocking behavior. What we learn from this, in Jesus' own words, is that "the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost" (Lk 19:10).
If this is why our Savior, the Son of Man, came to earth then it is also our mission as his followers. St. Teresa of Avila poetically reminds us that Jesus "has no body but yours; no hands, no feet on earth but yours; yours are the eyes with which he looks compassion on the world," so we are all called to help bring the lost back to Jesus Christ. Pope Paul VI confirms that the Catholic Church "exists in order to evangelize . . . to reconcile sinners with God" (1). Looking again to our parable of the lost sheep, we recognize that the Pharisees and scribes make themselves judges of character while Jesus actively seeks out the lost. The shepherd does not passively wait for the lost sheep to find its way back, only accepting it back into the fold if it returns. He also doesn't blame the sheep or expect it to realize it's lost, but instead he goes out to meet it exactly where it's at. In the same way, we are called to meet people where they are at, receiving them, eating with them, and rejoicing when they have found Christ!
Granted, this does not necessarily mean that we try to preach at every person we know. That would probably be a poor method of evangelization. However, we can certainly live with true love and joy and without arrogance, condescension, competition, and judgment. We can root ourselves in prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to guide us in all our interactions, and we can commit to interceding for those around us -- family, friends, coworkers, and strangers whom we pass on the street. As we strive to imitate our Blessed Mother, let us remember her virtues of profound humility, ardent charity, heroic patience, and constant mental prayer.
1. Evangelii Nutiandi (Evangelization in the Modern World - Encyclical by Pope Paul VI, 1965) paragraph 14